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Like Goethe, Ralph Waldo Emerson wanted to be the cultural historian and interpreter of his age—its business, politics, discoveries. The journals and notebooks included in this volume and covering in depth the years 1848 to 1851 reflect Emerson’s preoccupations with the events of these often turbulent years in America.
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Waldo Emerson was not a practicing literary critic in the sense that and were, and he was not a theorist as , or Friedrich Ernst Schleiermacher were. Yet he was for America what was for England, the major spokesman for a new conception of literature. From his early essays on English literature and his important first book, (1836), to his greatest single literary essay, "The Poet" (1844), to his late essays on "Poetry and Imagination" and "Persian Poetry" in 1875, Emerson developed and championed a concept of literature as literary activity. The essence of that activity is a symbolizing process. Both reader and writer are involved in acts of literary expression which are representative or symbolic. Emerson's position is an extreme one, and in (1965) René Wellek has said that "the very extremity with which he held his views makes him the outstanding representative of romantic symbolism in the English-speaking world." Emerson's romantic symbolism, biographical and ethical in intent, poetic in expression, is an attitude that still stirs debate and still can have a liberating and encouraging effect on the modern reader. Emerson always cared more for the present than the past, more for his reader than for the text in hand or the author in question. Poets, he said, are "liberating gods"; and Emerson at his best is also a liberator. "Meek young men grow up in libraries, believing it their duty to accept the views, which Cicero, which Locke, which Bacon have given, forgetful that Cicero, Locke, and Bacon were only young men in libraries, when they wrote those books."
Excerpt from Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson: With AnnotationsEmerson had now three children, for a second son had been born to him. His farm was now increased in the home fields, and he had bought the Walden pine grove. Conco ...
In the age before the internet, TV, movies and novels, one of the most popular forms of entertainment was the lecture. Americans would pack auditoriums and lyceums to hear speakers hold forth on topics from science to religion. In the half century between the 1830s and the 1880s, no speaker was more popular than Ralph Waldo Emerson, the Sage of Concord.
Trained as a Unitarian minister, Emerson ultimately became America's top secular preacher and the father of the philosophical movement known as transcendentalism. Emerson believed that true spiritual revelation came from instinct, and encouraged people to slow down, listen up and trust the voice within. "A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within," Emerson wrote in his essay , "more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages."
Emerson's uniquely American philosophies were not without fault. His me-first, go-your-own-way boosterism could be interpreted as self-centeredness, a trait Americans are often accused of having. In other words, one critic wrote, "Emerson must be held blameless for the fact that his exaltations on individual get-up-and-go have ended, in the fullness of time, by producing George Steinbrenner." His philosophies never came up with a satisfactory answer for why really terrible, evil things happen in the world, and whether a wicked-minded person should also accept Emerson's exhortations to "trust thyself."
But as his friend and contemporary Walt Whitman, said, "the best part of Emersonianism is, it breeds the giant that destroys itself." You can dislike Emerson, turn against him, toss his works aside and set out on your own path. Just the way he told you to.
When Emerson began these journals in June of 1838, he “had achieved initial success in each of his main forms of public utterance. The days of finding his proper role and public voice were now behind him…and his…personal life had healed from earlier wounds.” Now he was married to Lydia Jackson of Plymouth and was the father of a young son, Waldo. They lived in a large, comfortable house in Concord, only a half-day’s drive from Boston but close to the solitude of nature. Still to come was the controversy he would create by his address to the graduating class at Harvard Divinity School an address in which he would say that the Divinity School trained ministers for a dead church. These journals record his responses to the severe criticism and trace his struggles as he overcame the stings of attack with a growing confidence in himself as a thinker, lecturer, and writer.
Also in 1835, Emerson moved to Concord and, in September, married Lydia Jackson of Plymouth whom he came to call Lidian (and, sometimes, Asia) and who he tried to get to call him something besides Mr. E. He once told his cousin Sarah Ripley that those "who had baptised the child Lydia had been ill-advised, for her name was Lidian." In 1836 the so-called Transcendental Club met for the first time, bringing together with Emerson, , , and . The group expanded in just a week and a half to include , , , and Bronson Alcott. It again expanded to include , , , and . Eighteen thirty-six also saw the publication of Emerson's first book and the birth of his first child, Waldo.
Charles Darwin and Ralph Waldo Emerson fail to obtain their sense of morality from religion, so they formulate their own new ideas from which they acquire their morals, although these ideas are very different....
Ralph Waldo Emerson One of the great controversial debates in Psychology is determining if characteristics and behavior are primarily due to genetics or the environment.